Thoughts on Thoughts
How Gen Z Deals with Stress at Work
Thoughts on Thoughts posts are my thoughts and notes on videos, articles, and other conent I come across online and find intestesting. You will find the original video which is the subject of the post embedded below.
Gen Z, Stress, and the Workplace in Dentistry
Hey Dentists. Gen Z is defined as anybody born in 1997 or later. As of today’s date that would be inclusive of those age 25 or younger which means the upcoming spring of new dentists are of the Gen Z cohort and many, many of our team members (Dental Assistants, Administrative Team, and Hygienists) are of the Gen Z cohort as well. It is well documented that cohorts such as Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers have sociological trends which on average are represented. Of course there are exceptions to the rule – but as a cohort there will be shared trends.
Researcher and popular author Simon Sinek has dedicated a huge chunk of his professional life to studying, identifying, and communicating these cohort trends to the masses. Recently, I came across a video of Sinek pontificating on Gen Z in the workplace and they way stress places into their lives in the workplace in the modern day.
Below are my summary notes and thoughts from the video for this Thoughts on Thoughts post.
My notes are in Black.
My thoughts are in Blue.
In the video Sinek Says:
-For better or for worse, we must understand what work has become in the lives for the younger generation.
Most of us will all be working with Gen Z on our team, and all of the new dentists graduating are also Gen Z. We can’t change them and we honestly probably shouldn’t try to. I think it is important to invest some time into understanding this cohort. I suppose unless you are near enough to retirement age where you only have a few years left before you hang up and leave the workplace.
-It used to be, “You got your sense of purpose from church, you got your sense of community from a bowling league, you knew your neighbors and barbequed with them on the weekend. You were loyal to work, and work was loyal to you and at some point you would get a gold watch.” People had diverse lives, communities, support systems, etc with real people in real settings. With Gen Z much of their social circle, support, and friend interaction is on social media or on devices. They rarely (compared to older generations) actually interact with real humans face to face – other than at the workplace. So the workplace now takes a larger role in their lives. Even though this is not necessarily what they want….it is probably a fact for many of them.
-Work was simply a place to make a living to pay your bills and there was employer/employee loyalty. Employer/Employee loyalty is big here. People used to keep the same job for years and decades. With younger workers it is not uncommon to see 5 different jobs on their resume over a short period of time. When we see this as employeers we have to ask ourselves, do we want to take the risk of hiring somone who job hops? They might not see it as job hopping. They might see it as “leveling up” or something else? Not realizing the negative long-term ramifications it can have on their professions, career, and livelihood in general. In the short-term job hopping can have benefits like a quick raise in pay or a quick relief for example ‘getting away’ from a stressful co-worker or boss versus navigating and managing the situation to resolve it. That requires much more work, investment, and skill.
-Today church engagement is down, community groups like bowling leagues hardly exist anymore, most people don’t even know who their neighbors are let alone talk to them or have relationships with them. We have become very insular.
-What has happened is – all of that responsibility and pressure to meet those needs has now been put on the work office. This can be a huge source of stress for a lot of employers.
-Gen Z expects the company/workplace to be the place where they get their purpose, friendships, sense of community, the place they get their social life, the place where you have to agree with their political stances, and the workplace has to be a therapy to meet their emotional needs. Many employers are probably caught off guard at the idea that Gen Z as a cohort is seeking us as the employer to provide for all of these different needs as opposed to a paycheck and ‘nice place to work.’ What that entails is very different to a Boomer/Gen X and even Millenial vs Gen Z. This is a huge source of stress for many dentists. The dentist does not know how to (and may not want to) structure a workplace which keeps in mind cultivating the Gen Z team members search for community, friendships, purpose, emotional support, political alignment and so on. In the past, there were other social structures which had a stronger presence in people’s lives which filled much of these needs. Those human needs did not go away and they are more and more being delgated to the employeer.
-Gen Z will bring “ALL of [their] problems to work.” It was common work professionalism to not bring your personal problems to work. Sinek is saying that that idea is totally out the window with Gen Z and that they bring essentially all of their personal life problems with them to work.
-Previous generations would not bring their personal problems to work. Gen Z does.
-”The idea of emotional professionalism seems to have gone away.”
-You will see people sitting in a work meeting, arms crossed, slumped, with a negative attitude at work because they are “having a bad day” in their personal life. This is “emotionally unprofessional.” Sinek coins a term here called Emotional Professionalism which basically means even if you are having a bad day in your personal life you should compartmentlize and not bring your personal stress and problems to work. This can hurt the team and hurt the effectiveness of the team and bring stress to your work team.
-A struggle of Gen Z is that they are less equipped to deal with stress. And more so confrontation. Sinek is saying that Gen Z is not doing this on purpose they are just not a generation as a cohort that is equipped to handle their stress for various reasons and a big piece of this is his claim that they lack the ability to properly handle confrontation. They may be the most confrontation avoidant generation. Avoiding the conflict does not mean there is no conflict, it just means that you avoided it instead of resolving it. It will still cause problems. Instead of properly resolving a conflict or stressor Gen Z will ‘ghost’ and entirely stop showing up – or initiate behaviors which let the problems stew and brew and grow into even bigger issues in their attempt to avoid them.
-This is the most confrontational avoidant generation.
-They will ghost their employer and ghost their personal relationships before they engage in conversation or conflict because they do not know how to properly. When they feel things are not going well – they quit. With Gen Z we see this trend not only in work but also their personal lives (which is probably more wrapped up in their work lives than they would like to admit).
-Employers should understand that the way Gen Z is, is not a ‘good thing’ or a ‘bad thing’ it just is. Gen Z is not ‘wrong’ for being this way, this is simply the way their cohort is. Just as the previous generations were the way they were. We must meet them where they are and all work together. This process will be difficult and have some friction as does all team building and problem solving – which again, is diffiult with them, because when they sense conflict they will often abandon vs resolve and work through.
-So how does Gen Z deal with stress?
-They will find the 1 or 2 most empathetic people at the office and dump their life problems on them. From work problems, problems with family, boyfriend and girlfriend problems, every single problem in their life they are struggling to process they will dump on this person. Team members will find someone in your office and just emotionally dump all of their problems on them every single day. There is likely a person or two who is a good listener and empathetic communicator and Gen Z will basically share all of their live problems with them daily. Everything that is stressing them out from work, home, boyfriend, girlfriend, what will they do with their life and this stresses out those team members who get emotionally dumped on. This can burn out those team members. They don’t get burned out from the work itself – but can get burned out from getting emotionally dumped on at work by Gen Z. And Gen Z likely does not even realize they are doing this.